When I first moved to Mobile in 2004, I asked a few poker buddies where I could find the best beer selection in Midtown. The consensus pointed me to The Bakery Café, a small gourmet deli that had such exotic selections as Guinness, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Abita Amber.
It wasn’t much, but it scratched the itch. Soon after, however, The Bakery shut its doors, leaving a veritable craft beer wasteland for Midtown Mobilians who didn’t want to drive west of Interstate 65 for their favorite brews.
When Old Shell Growlers recently opened its doors at the corner of Old Shell Road and Kenneth Street in the heart of Midtown, it was as if an oasis arrived in the desert, here to slake the thirsts of Mobile’s urban dwellers.
For a beer lover, walking into the retail shop is akin to experiencing Wonka’s chocolate factory up close. Everything is available to purchase as singles, and a massive collection of bottles lining one wall emphasizes that point. I’ve been looking forward to a store that offers this option for years. It encourages experimentation and provides an option for customers who might not buy an entire six-pack of something new and exotic, but are willing to drop two or three bucks on one bottle.
Beers are organized alphabetically by brewery, which makes finding your favorite brews a breeze; but with the seemingly constant influx of new craft breweries, I feel bad for the employee tasked with keeping things in alphabetical order.
If you can pull yourself away from the retail side long enough, there’s an entire other section of the store dedicated to draft beer and high-end bar food. More than 40 taps offer beers from around the country. You can buy a glass to enjoy while you shop or fill up one of the store’s namesake glass growlers (available in 32-ounce or 64-ounce sizes) to take home with you.
The selection of draft beer is vast and encompasses a wide array of styles, but our local brewery was conspicuously absent from the tap wall on the two occasions I stopped in. It may just be a coincidence, or perhaps Fairhope’s beers just sell faster than others on the wall, but it’s important that local businesses support each other, and I hope the pelican taps become a regular fixture at Old Shell Growlers soon.
Blue Pants brewmaster leaving for new opportunites
Derek Weidenthal, better known as “Weedy,” the brewmaster at Blue Pants Brewery, announced recently he is leaving the north Alabama brewery to help with a startup in Tombstone, Arizona.
Weidenthal is a graduate of the prestigious Siebel Brewing Institute and is widely credited with improving the quality of beers coming out of Blue Pants since his arrival four years ago.
“I have always loved brewing beer in the city that I grew up in and being near family and friends,” Weidenthal wrote in a Facebook post.
As for his replacement, “I am searching for someone that I can trust to continue to build on the success we’ve had and there are several great candidates that are interested in the position.”
Good luck, Weedy. The Alabama brewing scene will miss you greatly.
Dan Murphy is a Certified Cicerone® and the founding brewer at Fairhope Brewing Co. Follow him on Instagram @Grand_Krewe and on Twitter @Beer_Man_Dan.